Touch, screen, and the power of good vibrations24/05/2020
Collective member Loren Hansi Gordon muses on our relationship to Touch and Screens in the modern era.
It’s 6.45 am. My alarm goes off and I roll over, lean out of bed and swipe my finger across the surface of my phone to dismiss the high pitched instruction to rejoin the world, awake. Beyond the covers I have become entangled in throughout the night, this is my first touch of the day. Despite being happily married, before any kind of human-to-human contact, my fingertips reach to touch the tepid glass of my phone. From that moment on I am hooked into a perpetual loop of touch, swipe, tap, check, scroll.I’m not alone. Award-winning indie-documentary Stare Into the Light My Pretties…(2018) eloquently reminds us of this fact. ‘We live in a world of screens’ and within the ‘first 15 mins of waking up, 4 out of 5 smartphone users are checking their phone’. The pervasive, ubiquity of our screen culture is hidden in plain sight. Either that, or we are too busy looking down to realise we are surrounded. Stare Into the Light My Pretties… asks:‘Do you touch plastic or human flesh more often?’
Touch and tech are already bedfellows.I’d first learned about the haptic vest — a piece of wearable tech that simulates touch — from Caroline Criado Perez in ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’. Perez (2020) writes about how the vest is designed to be closely aligned to the male body but does not account for the shapes of women. This caught my attention.
As sound resonates on the skin, in sync with an immersive virtual reality experience, the bodily sensation is playing on our tools of perception, challenging our understanding of space and time. Emerging from the television and video gaming industries in the mid-nineties the technology continues to evolve.And when ‘Man’ first recreated touch — what did it feel like? A gentle caress, a hug from a friend, a squeeze of the hand. Not quite. How about a gunshot to the back, a slash or a graze? This is the touch so yearned for it was recreated, by design.Atthe dawn of the new millennium, the HugShirt became a reality. The garment uses Bluetooth signal to allow you to send a hug over distance. With the aid of an app and a touch, swipe, tap, tap, send - the wearer experiences the sensation of a hug from an absent friend.
This technology has massive potential, and not only in simulating violence for entertainment in the safety of our own homes. It can also be a source of kindness, intimacy and connection, helping people who are isolated from others, feel the love.Touch is powerful, and at a time when it is being strictly limited for public-health reasons, it is more important now than ever. Both for those who are suffering from its withdrawal, and those of us searching for connection, whose fingers invariably find phones. While on the one hand, (where my phone takes its place on a daily basis), we might consider withholding precious human touch from the devices that seduce us into spirals of doom. On the other, let’s celebrate the power of good vibrations.
It’s 11.45 pm I’m in bed setting my phone up to charge for the night. A side of my brain is completely drained, my eyes are aching and I have a mild headache. Somewhere else, I remember something that had caught my attention earlier that I hadn’t had time to Google in the moment. Now’s my chance. I must find this out before this day is done.
Read her further thoughts on Medium.
How are you dealing with the daily obsession of social media? Answers on the back of a postcard :)